In Post-Adelson Online Push, Las Vegas Sands May Have Eyes on 888 Holdings

Posted on: February 5, 2021, 07:58h. 

Last updated on: February 5, 2021, 01:27h.

The integrated resort operator Las Vegas Sands is rumored to be considering a deal for online casino firm 888 Holdings (OTC:EIHDF). It could mark the first overt sign that a new era of strategy is being ushered in at Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) following the death of founder Sheldon Adelson last month.

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Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein. He’s only held that title a short time, but rumors are flying about acquisition targets for the company. (Image: Bloomberg)

The scuttlebutt appears in the latest edition of Eilers & Krejcik Gaming’s bi-weekly EKG Line report, with the research firm not identifying sources. EKG calls the chatter “an interesting rumor we’ve been hearing lately,” while noting US market access, assuming there’s a marriage between the two companies, presents an issue.

Las Vegas Sands has a small US land-based footprint (Nevada only), while 888 has access to a few states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Iowa,” said EKG.

The firm, 888 Holdings is based in Gibraltar, and the primary listing venue for its stock in London, where it’s a member of the FTSE 250 Index. The company is licensed in Gibraltar and the UK and also holds permits in Spain, Italy, Romania, Denmark, Nevada, and New Jersey, according to its website.

New Frontier for Sands

Adelson passed away last month following complications stemming from non-Hodkinson’s lymphoma. He was 87. During his tenure at the helm of what’s now the world’s largest gaming company by market capitalization, he turned the firm into a force in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) space.

He also orchestrated LVS’s ascent to dominance in Macau, where it owns five integrated resorts. However, he was also stridently opposed to online gaming, contributing cash to groups and ballot initiatives opposing the activity.

With the company’s focus on MICE and emphasis on its Asia-Pacific operations in Macau and Singapore, sports betting was also an afterthought when Adelson was in charge. Just days before Adelson passed away, reports emerged that then-President Rob Goldstein was holding early stage talks with unidentified parties about pushing LVS into the fast-growing US sports wagering industry. Goldstein is now chairman and chief executive officer.

Any move into iGaming and sports wagering by Sands will be complementary to existing operations, not representative of a dramatic shift in the overall strategy. Goldstein and new President and COO Patrick Dumont, the latter Adelson’s son-in-law, are emphasizing that they share their late boss’s vision for the company, including an ongoing commitment to Macau and Singapore and efforts to bring integrated resorts to New York City and Texas.

Cash Matters

While LVS is behind in terms of procuring online casinos and sports betting access in the US, it has the capital to make up the lost ground.

“Sands has the financial firepower to play aggressively for US market access. Sands also has its sights set on land-based licensure in Tier 1 states like Texas and New York, which, if obtained, would massively increase the reach of the combined entity,” according to EKG.

As for acquiring 888 Holdings, the UK-based company has a market value of $1.13 billion. Even when assuming a premium that would value the target at $1.5 billion — just speculation at this juncture — LVS can easily get a deal done because it has $2.12 billion in cash on hand as of the end of 2020.

There’s also talk 888 is interested in bidding for William Hill’s European business after Caesars Entertainment acquires that company.